“Military-friendly” has seemed to become as a trendy buzzword for many companies these days, complete with shiny stickers to slap on your recruiter’s door. But what does the term actually mean to real Veteran considering your organization for the next stage of their career?
From our conversations with former service-members transitioning into the civilian workplace (including many on our team), SAVI has narrowed it down to this: Veterans want to feel like they belong. They want to make an impact, add value, and contribute to a team’s success.
This means that it’s not enough to hire them. You need also to embrace them, value them, and then step back — because a proper Veteran engagement plan will let you enjoy the view as these high-skill, reliable class of workers sets your industry on fire.
So, if you’re thinking of flying the “military-friendly” flag, then you better be sure to have at least these six practices in place at your workplace:
• Don’t put them in a box. Sure, everyone has a job to do — but don’t limit the Veteran’s potential to one or two skill sets, especially if these skills are based on stereotypes. Veterans excel in a multitude of specialties and are extremely capable of adapting to new situations and overcoming barriers to success. Make sure your team is responding to the Veteran’s unique strengths. Also, don’t forget to consider leadership roles, opportunities for impact, and process improvement as three areas in particular where former service-members may shine.
• Accommodate and acclimate. Think through in advance how your organization might make reasonable accommodations for Veterans with service-related disabilities (physical or mental). Also — since no two Veterans are exactly alike — be prepared to address and adapt to these needs on an individual, shifting basis to help you acclimate Veteran talent successfully.
• Use power tools. (No, not those kind.) Set new Veteran hires up for success by providing them with tools required to do their jobs effectively. Help them feel trusted and empowered so as to motivate them to work hard, and they will surely exceed the goals set out for them. Go for walk-and-talks to check in and hear their ideas, encourage their forward-thinking, and help them see the big picture of how things fit together in the long run.
• Recognize … With the Veteran’s permission, introduce them to the team with mention of their military background. Acknowledge and show gratitude for their service if you feel so inclined, and share what they’ve accomplished in their career so far to help build trust among their colleagues — particularly other Veterans on your team.
• … but also criticize. To honor a Veteran is to give them feedback — directly and often. In the military, there’s often no time to politely beat around the bush when you’re trying to get something done. Delivering criticism can be intimidating for many project managers in the civilian world, but Veteran supervisees may be the most receptive audience you’ll ever find in terms of listening and responding to ideas for on-the-job improvement.
• Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask Veterans about their experiences — starting small of course. Engaging in honest conversation like you would with anyone else is one of the fastest ways to dispel the stigmas that civilians often associate with the military community. Veterans can be exceptionally capable in a surprising number of disciplines. By asking questions, you give the Veteran a chance to set themselves apart from the stereotypes. In return, they’ll share with you the personality, knowledge, and depth that your team may not have realized was there all along. If you allow a Veteran to be their best, they’ll give you everything they have.
With more than 550 military members transitioning out of the service each day, hiring Veterans is one of the best ways to diversify and grow your workforce. But if Veterans are placed into the wrong roles or aren’t properly brought into your culture, they won’t be as successful.
Leverage the strengths of a Veteran by following these six pieces of advice and to maximize your ROI on Veteran hiring. It’s not a sprint to see who can recruit and hire the most Veterans — it’s a marathon, requiring tactful and meaningful retention and engagement when building a pro-Veteran workforce. Once you’re doing it right, fly that “military-friendly” flag with pride.